William Ridley Wills

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William Ridley Wills, born Brownsville, Tennessee on March 4, 1897, was a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a member of the Fugitive literary group. He worked for the Memphis Press, Memphis Evening Appeal, and the Nashville Banner newspapers before leaving for New York to become the Sunday Editor for the New York World. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant with the U.S. Army, 76th Field Artillery during World War I and saw action during at Somme, St. Michel, and Meuse-Argonne, France. He was honorably discharged in France on July 12, 1919.

He was well known as a novelist, poet, and journalist. Wills wrote two novels; Hoax (1922), the life of a young man from the age of eighteen to twenty-seven, and Harvey Landrum (1924), a psychological study of chinless Harvey Landrum, who tries to conceal a sense of inferiority behind a false front of bravery, are written in a frank but restrained prose style.[1] He and Allen Tate co-wrote a book of poetry called 'The Golden Mean; and other poems' which was published in 1923.[2]

After the returning from France, William Ridley Wills married Louella Wilson and they had 5 children: Andrew, William, David, Tookie, and Thaddeus.

He spent the last four years of his life as a patient at the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in Florida where he also served as the editor of the hospital newspaper. He died on September 8, 1957.[3]

Allen Tate's view of Wills[edit]

Allen Tate wrote of Wills in the book "The Golden Mean":

"Ridley Wills came into the crass universe like a Spring wind with a napkin under its chin. He has subsequently attended many banquets and stol'n the scraps. We shall be somewhat glad for Ridley reaches into the very cul-de-sac of human passion; in fact, he reaches into human passion.

Ridley Wills' genius is uncontested; he doesn't even contest it himself. His mind is immediate; it has no middle term. His intuition of reality points only to foreknowledge, and that, perhaps, is why he knows practically nothing of the past. Ridley Wills is quite at his ease in the novel. I think that Ridley has a very bright future behind him, because he is more than successful in his collaboration with me. He permanence is established-he is certainly the most parabolic young man of the Younger Generation."


  1. ^ "Writers of Tennessee". Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Register of the Ridley Wills. Golden mean and other poems.". Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Fugitives and Agrarians". Retrieved January 28, 2009.